Metonymy Based on Cultural Background Knowledge and Pragmatic Inferencing: Evidence From Spoken Discourse

Arijana Krišković, Sandra Tominac
The characterization of metonymy as a conceptual tool for guiding inferencing in language has opened a new field of study in cognitive linguistics and pragmatics. To appreciate the value of metonymy for pragmatic inferencing, metonymy should not be viewed as performing only its prototypical referential function. Metonymic mappings are operative in speech acts at the level of reference, predication, proposition and illocution. The aim of this paper is to study the role of metonymy in pragmatic inferencing in spoken discourse in televison interviews. Case analyses of authentic utterances classified as illocutionary metonymies following the pragmatic typology of metonymic functions are presented. Th e inferencing processes are facilitated by metonymic connections existing between domains or subdomains in the same functional domain. It has been widely accepted by cognitive linguists that universal human knowledge and embodiment are essential for the interpretation of metonymy. Th is analysis points to the role of cultural background knowledge in understanding target meanings. All these aspects of metonymic connections are exploited in complex inferential processes in spoken discourse. In most cases, metaphoric mappings are also a part of utterance interpretation.
Key words
cognitive linguistics; pragmatics; metonymy; discourse analysis; inferencing; cultural knowledge.
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